April 24, 2024
Miranda Fulmore, WBHM


The Birmingham Zoo plans to develop a new habitat termed Cougar Crossing in the zoo’s Alabama Wilds portion. But a new archeological study identified at least 12 graves under the proposed internet site. Now the zoo has submitted for a allow with the Alabama Historical Commission to professionally exhume the graves and reinter them nearby.

“We see it as an opportunity to inform the tale of Birmingham. It is acquired a terrific story,” reported Chris Pfefferkorn, the zoo’s CEO and President. “I think it presents us a great option as folks pay a visit to their zoo to discover even far more about their zoo, Birmingham and where by they dwell.”

The zoo has been open up considering the fact that the 1950s, but ahead of that, it was a park and before a cemetery. It’s transformed names virtually a 50 percent dozen situations from Southside Cemetery and New Southside Cemetery to Red Mountain Park and Purple Mountain Cemetery to Lane Park.

Records exhibit that in the 1880s, the metropolis of Birmingham acquired 120 acres the place the zoo now sits to use as an overflow for the city’s first cemetery, Oak Hill. The target was to use it mainly as a Potter’s Subject for people today who couldn’t find the money for to be buried.

The historical marker for Lane Park sits just outside of the black bear habitat in the Alabama Wilds portion of the zoo. Next to it is a little gate with a several headstones. (Miranda Fulmore, WBHM)

Over a 20-year interval, extra than 4,700 people ended up buried there. But tracking down these graves can be really hard.

“There has been no map that we can uncover. We have a record of names, but it does not correlate to any placement within this region,” explained Pfefferkorn.

It’s an concern Gary Gerlach, the previous director of the nearby Birmingham Botanical Gardens, ran into as he used a long time studying the background of the location.

“There’s no identification so you don’t know (exactly where a person is buried) until you set a shovel in the floor,” said Gerlach.

Gerlach reported that if the allow is permitted, the zoo could appear throughout far more than 12 graves now discovered less than the proposed progress.

Terri Hicks, the Jefferson County consultant for the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance, claimed that is why it is significant that the organization is involved in the exhuming course of action.

“If we can get just to have our boots on the floor (and) just to be there to solution queries … I’d like to be there,” claimed Hicks.

The ACPA works along with residents and the Alabama Historical Commission to obtain, preserve and preserve 1000’s of cemeteries across the point out.

The historical fee will make the determination on the relocation allow. A fee spokeswoman mentioned it hasn’t gained any relocation allow programs in the previous 5 years.

It’s at least a two-month-prolonged course of action. Each application is reviewed by several workers customers and they have to contain authorized files, prior investigations within the cemetery and proposed methodology for the elimination and reinterment of human stays.

If the prepare is approved by the commission and the graves are exhumed, archeologists may possibly uncover remains or burial objects. But Pfefferkorn wasn’t counting on it.

“Our expectation of acquiring matters is quite reduced since, just one, they weren’t saved in a vault or container that would secure the body for a longer period and, two, with the (acidic) soil composition, we may not obtain a great deal. But it is up to the archeologist,” Pfeffercorn stated.

In any circumstance, the zoo has a system. Pfeffercorn claimed they’ll handle any remains with regard by placing them into pine packing containers, commemorating them by way of a placard, holding a ceremony and making a database with their GPS coordinates.

Leaving some variety of marker is exactly what the zoo really should do, mentioned Hicks.

“Because if you really don’t folks are likely to ignore. And each individual marker is a individual just like us. You have to regard those markers and regard the persons that these markers stand for because they had lives just like we did,” she claimed.